Different locations daily
Wicked Wiches pulled up to the office where I work recently. I was intrigued when I first saw them as I’m interested in the food truck business model. What restaurateur would thumb their nose at the thought of virtually no overhead (no brick and mortar location with rent/mortgage) and being afforded the ability to relocate if one particular area does not provide the necessary customer traffic? The lower overhead means you can likely show a higher profit margin in a shorter period of time and soon go from red to black in your startup costs. The downside to the model is that your food must shine as you don’t have any other accoutrement to give the customer a positive experience (aside from the general customer service experience). Based on my coworker Nook’s humorous review of Wicked Wiches, and their appetizing menu (http://eatfreshdaily.com/wicked/menu.jpg) I decided to give them a shot.
I like the look of their truck, it has a very clean look that instills you with confidence that their kitchen is clean as well. While a car wash doesn’t equate a clean kitchen, it’s a great tactic. They’ve installed green lights that attract your eye and help passerby notice the truck. The canopy is a thoughtful addition in Tampa to afford customers a moment out of the sun while waiting for their food.
Rob ordered the Bourbon Mango Pork ‘Kota’ (for some background on ‘Bunny chow’ aka the ‘Kota’ or quarter check the Wiki article; in short it’s a South African specialty) which looked delicious. Rob has shown great taste in restaurants and food in the years we’ve worked together and he spoke well of the Kota he ordered. On the initial perusal of the menu I was tempted to order the Curry Coconut Chicken Kota, in retrospect I wish I had.
I typically review meals as a whole, but in this case there were three discrete parts of this meal and thus I will review them seperately. I will start with the chips as they were my favorite part of the meal. The chips are a skinny kettle chip that has a great charred and caramelized flavor (if you have ‘Better Made’ chips in your area, you can get something akin to Wicked Wiches’ chips called ‘Rainbow’ chips). For some people this might be an acquired taste (so if you’re 5, you might not like them) but I loved them. They topped the chips with a thinned out honey-based sauce (there was a hint of caramel, but it may have just been the caramelization on the chips). The richness of the sauce set off the flavor of the chips; this is something I would gladly order a small bowl of by itself. The chips got a Rating: , and would merit a great snack.
Next I ate the ‘Panino.’ The first few bites of the sandwich left an odd acidity in my mouth that wasn’t appetizing. As I continued to eat the sandwich, the oddness seemed to resolve itself, it may have just been something fickle with my palate. The meats tasted pretty good, but the baby greens didn’t marry very well with the richness of the salami and prosciutto (I think something like arugula would have gone better to really provide contrast). I would prefer a bit rougher or drier bread with this sandwich, I suspect that the prevalence of Cuban Bread in Tampa may play a role in why most restaurants here serve sandwiches with soft breads. My favorite aspect of the samich were the sauteed onions, carrots, and roasted peppers. The Panino got a Rating: , I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to particular item to anyone but I would eat it again if someone gave it to me.
Finally we arrive at our unfortunate turn of events, the Smoked Ruben. I was curious if there was a South African, Texas, or frankly any reference to ‘Ruben’ as a sandwich that I hadn’t heard of it, but the top results for a Google search of ‘Ruben’ only brought up Ruben Studdard. Ruben Studdard is a big guy who seemingly enjoys his share of eats, so perhaps this ‘Ruben’ is his favorite iteration of the more traditional ‘reuben’. Whatever the case may be, I was not a fan of this Ruben. The concept of the sandwich was sound, making a ‘barbeque’ version of the reuben by using a chipotle russian sauce; an idea that I haven’t seen/tasted before. As I ate the Ruben last, the bread had started to get quite soggy. The primary issue I had with the sandwich was the beef brisket as it wasn’t cooked so that the fat and tissues and had broken down. Each bite felt like I was fighting with the sandwich and at a couple of points I had to take the chewier parts out. While I don’t scoff at chewy things or connective tissue, they need to be presented in the proper context. This sandwich was being delivered as a decadent, comfort-food, gooey mess but the ball is dropped on that when you’re fighting to bite through the sandwich and have to get all Primal Rage to claim your bite. This is not a sandwich I would recommend to anyone until they really nail down how to cook the beef brisket like a traditional corned beef (which requires time, some more time, and then just to make sure give it a little bit more time). This sandwich got a Rating: , mainly for the concept.
From what I had seen, there appeared to be some tasty items on the menu at Wicked Wiches, I just happened to choose poorly. Unfortunately, if something doesn’t shine, it really shouldn’t be on your menu. Overall Wicked Wiches got a Rating: , chips can only take you so far but Wicked Wiches definitely has a vibe that they could redeem themselves… just don’t get the ‘Ruben’.
-Matt in Tampa